The Ancient Bracelet Of Detect Plot

I stumbled onto this list of writers’ guidelines over at Clarkesworld Magazine, and I thought this list of sci-fi and fantasy cliches was so impressive I had to share.

Though no particular setting, theme, or plot is anathema to us, the following are likely hard sells:

* stories in which a milquetoast civilian government is depicted as the sole obstacle to either catching some depraved criminal or to an uncomplicated military victory
* stories in which the words “thou” or “thine” appear
* talking cats
* talking swords
* stories where the climax is dependent on the spilling of intestines
* stories where FTL travel is as easy as is it on television shows or movies
* time travel too
* stories that depend on some vestigial belief in Judeo-Christian mythology in order to be frightening (i.e., Cain and Abel are vampires, the End Times are a’ comin’, Communion wine turns to Christ’s literal blood and it’s HIV positive, Satan’s gonna getcha, etc.)
* stories about rapist-murderer-cannibals
* stories about young kids playing in some field and discovering ANYTHING. (a body, an alien craft, Excalibur, ANYTHING).
* stories about the stuff we all read in Scientific American three months ago
* stories where the Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or the Spartacist League, etc. take over the world and either save or ruin it
* your AD&D game
* “funny” stories that depend on, or even include, puns
* sexy vampires, wanton werewolves, or lusty pirates
* zombies or zombie-wannabes
* stories originally intended for someone’s upcoming theme anthology or issue
* stories where the protagonist is either widely despised or widely admired simply because he or she is just so smart and/or strange

I’d like to add sideplots that exist just to get all the characters naked (I’m looking at you, Piers Anthony), and XKCD’s made-up words rule.

Fiction Rule of Thumb

Via Clarkesworld Magazine, and XKCD

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0 Responses to The Ancient Bracelet Of Detect Plot

  1. Harrison says:

    Reading fantasy books is a guilty pleasure. Although it falls into so many cliche categories, I still greatly enjoy Robert Asprin’s Myth series.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is dead on! And it increases more than double for including 2 of these!

  3. Meg says:

    @Harrison I know! I have a soft spot for some not-so-great sci-fi and fantasy because I remember reading it and really enjoying it the first time, or because one character is really endearing and I really care about him/her (*cough* TWILIGHT).

    @Anon So kids playing in a field and discovering a talking sword is right out!

  4. Trevor says:

    Clearly the big challenge is to include all those elements in one super-cliche fest of totally unjustifiable proportions.

    Have you read the one where some children playing a field find a talking sword which magically imbues their pet cat with the ability to talk, they all then travel back through time to rescue a FTL ship from the scantily clad viking zombie pirates, and encounter a mysterious brooding vampire who falls in love with Mary Sue. Returning to the present they have learned enough to defeat the evil Democrats who were hiding the last of the scantily clad zombie pirates and feeding innocent americains to the evil scantily clad zombie pirate cannibals. Then the vampire they met earlier resurfaces and reveals he is really Cain and the end of the world is nigh but Mary Sue can save all by ending his torment and purging the world of his sin……

  5. Meg says:

    Oh, and when the the movie comes out, we can all say that the book is SO MUCH BETTER and the film version really loses something!

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